An exuberant, old-time–y celebration of the Fourth of July.
An energetic young child breathlessly narrates the day, from waking up bursting with excitement to conking out after the fireworks. In between, Spinelli’s nostalgic narrative hits all the expected notes. The child helps prepare the picnic (hot dogs and cherry pie, natch) and loads it into the little red wagon. A train festooned with bunting and pulled by a steam engine crosses Main Street. Once at the park, the family picnics and partakes in all the traditional Fourth of July activities, including face painting, sack racing, a concert in the bandstand, a visit to the zoo (this small-town park is extremely well-appointed), and, of course, the fireworks. Spinelli’s present-tense text combines a childlike voice (“Mama hands me a banana. I’m so excited I forgot to eat breakfast”) with poetic fervor (“My eyes cannot hold the wonders I see. My heart is cheering”). The only nods to patriotism are the abundant flags and mention of standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Day’s small town is a Norman Rockwell–esque place of white frame houses and unleashed, well-behaved dogs. The narrator and family present white, while the narrator’s best friend and some of the other festivalgoers are people of color.
Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America and its diversity, opt for Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin’s Pie Is for Sharing (2018). (Picture book. 4-8)